The Mormon Sect and the Child Protective Services
The last couple of weeks have brought the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints into widespread prominence. At last count, the Child Protective Services of Texas has 462 children in custody, awaiting the resolution of a very difficult issue of parental rights vs. state rights.
We know that Joseph Smith and his successor, Bringham Young, promoted polygamy as Gods will for His church in these latter days. When the United States government stated that this practice would not be permitted in any state of the union, Mormon authorities stated that they had received a revelation from God to discontinue polygamy as a practice. Not all Mormons were happy with this decision and claimed that the Mormon president had no authority to change what had formerly been their God-established practice. Because of this issue, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a sect that now has about 10,000 members, broke away from the parent body in 1890. Polygamy has continued in places like Utah (the Mormon stronghold) and Arizona, with local government officials generally choosing not to rock the boat and prosecute because of this violation of the civil law.
Several years ago, Warren Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist sect, and some of his followers moved to a large, 1,691 acre, ranch north of Eldorado in West Texas. There they erected a tall fence to surround the area, raised dormitories, and erected a large white temple, built from limestone they mined from their own property. They established businesses in this religious refuge, and even had a government contract to supply parts. Local townspeople didnt know what to think of this cult and were unaware of some of the practices of the adherents. Then the truth surfaced: Jeffs was the leader of a radical offshoot of the Mormons that practiced child marriage and polygamy. The Texas government made a choice: they sent officials to the property, forced admittance, and took over 400 children into custody.
At issue is the practice of arranged marriages of underage girlsas young as thirteen years of agewho were required to marry older men. Some of these girls had their own babies. Some of the men had multiple wives. The imposing temple on the grounds was used for the first sexual encounter when there was a marriage. After the capture of the children, the mothers of children four and younger were allowed to be with their children, but older children were separated from their mothersas well as their fathers who are confined to the compound.
As I read brief reports of this siege and the resultant separation of children from parents, I have mixed thoughts. First, I am made to wonder how and when the civil government should enter into a religious context like this and force people to do what they do not want to do. It does seem like the government does have a place in this, but how far? The government should defend the defenseless, the poor, and the abusedbut how far does this go?
Second, we know that it is not Gods will today for anyone to practice polygamy. Jesus pointed out that God made both male and female in the beginning, thus one man with one woman is the norm (Gen. 1:26-27; Matt. 19:4-6). Further, Paul says that a man should have his own wife (not wives) and a woman should have her own husband (not husbands) (1 Cor. 7:2)thus both polygamy and polyandry are not in His will. This sect violates Gods will in this, even if they adhere to the bizarre teachings of Joseph Smith, a renowned false prophet of the nineteenth century.
Third, we must admit that historians say that Jewish girls in New Testament times were generally 13 or 14 years of age at the time of marriage. Evidently, Mary, the mother of our Lord, was about 14 when Christ was born. Yet, since marriage younger than 16 is not permitted in this country (as far as I am aware), the Christian should submit to this requirement. There would probably be some other reasons for even further postponement and preparation before marriage in our own day.
Fourth, the news reports say that children were forced or required to marry at this young age, regardless of their personal wishes. Even the practice in Biblical times did not require forced marriage. While the fathers and mothers were involved in the choice of a marriage partner, the boy and girl themselves were given the final decision. This is the way it should be. It was irresponsible and wrong for parents in this cult to force their children into a marriage they did not want, especially to older men. Each person is responsible for whom they marry, though they should seek much parental counsel and seek their approval.
Fifth, someone pointed out to me the hypocrisy of all of this. Even if we acknowledge that the government has the right to take children from their parents if they are physically or sexually abused, isnt the government highly inconsistent in this? Most moral professing Christians recognize that homosexuality is a perverse, unnatural, and wicked relationship and practice. But do we find the Child Protective Services raiding sodomite homes and removing the children from them because of the evil influences on them? The opposite is true! Sodomites now have the legal right (given by the state, not by God) to adopt children, as bizarre and perverse as this may be! Also consider this: Does the government raid the homes of people who are living in fornication? Isnt this an immoral and evil influence on children exposed to this arrangement (1 Cor. 6:9-10)? Does the government raid the homes of families where adultery is openly practiced (by remarried parentsMatthew 19:9)? Isnt this a dangerous influence on innocent children? All we are saying here is that from the Christian perspective there is an inconsistency in the actions of the government.
One additional point here. Why is it
that the government–if it is so concerned about children’s welfare–has allowed multiple millions of unborn babies to be killed? This is rank hypocrisy!
These are considerations that come to mind in light of the government siege of the Mormon compound in West Texas. I saw photos of mothers who are weeping for their children, claiming that they love them, they care for them, and the children are raised in a protective and peaceful environment. I could see revealed the natural yearning of a mother for her children, even in this unique situation. Of course, we know that if the children rethere, they will probably continue in this destructive cult and reap the consequences of their wrong theology and practice.
I must admit that as I saw pictures of the women who are seeking legal permission to see their children, who want the right to raise their own sons and daughters, I am made to ponder all of this. The pictures of these women show that they are all dressed very modestly, with long hair, and I say to myself that they indeed look like they should be sisters in Christ! They look more like true sisters in Christ than most religious people in the world. Yes, we must acknowledge that they are deceiveddreadfully deceivedyet our hearts should go out to them. These mothers are saying that their children have been insulated from the world, they have been carefully educated, they have been taught modesty and motherhoodand now it seems like they will be placed into foster homes of people who are probably secular, humanistic, and worldly. What a shame!
One other matter comes to mind. This is a related matter. There have been reports that the Child Protective Services have investigated conservative homes of professing Christians for various Biblical matters. Scripture teaches physical discipline of children (Eph. 6:4; Prov. 13:24; 22:15), but the politically correct view says that children should not be spanked. Does the government have the right to forbid what God requires? Further, there have been interventions of the government into the parental right to home educate their children. Is this right? Should Christian parents be forbidden from teaching their own children, or should they be forced to send their sons and daughters to the state-sponsored worldly, humanistic schools? We know the answer. Therefore, we are made to wonder. If the state agencies have the power to take children from this cult because of sinful excesses, what if they come to our homes because we insist on disciplining our children and educating them for Gods glory? This is a question worth pondering. We should be prepared to give an answer for this. We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).
Lets pray that God will work through this perplexing situation for His own glory.